In Detroit, there is an incredibly transformative project underway. It’s called RecoveryPark, and it’s set to tackle a number of self-sustaining urban food initiatives, similar to what we’re seeing in Buffalo, but on an even larger scale.
In a city like Detroit, you have got to figure that the amount of underutilized vacant land is astounding. Fortunately for the team at RecoveryPark, that leads to huge opportunities. The for-profit organization is taking what is essentially a food desert, and it is utilizing nearby resources (including people) to literally grow its way out of despair. The first thing that RecoveryPark did was take a look at the assets:
- Open space
- Available buildings
- In place urban infrastructure
- Abundant fresh water
- Available workforce
Buffalo shares these same assets, especially on the city’s East Side. That is where we are already seeing urban farming initiatives. Then there’s the ArtFarms project (see here). In Detroit, they are starting to take all of these sorts of self-sustaining measures to the next level with RecoveryPark Farms, RecoveryPark Fisheries and RecoveryPark Foods. The programs are receiving funding, which has allowed a diverse team of managers to take on the venture. From the start, answers were needed for some critical questions that revolved around…
Where is food sourced? What percentage is local? Are there opportunities at hand, to grow local products? Who will work to grow the food? Who will purchase the food?
Whether it’s Buffalo or Detroit, we must take the idea of self-sustaining neighborhoods to the next level, much like Massachusetts Avenue Project is doing on the West Side of Buffalo. Similarly, RecoveryPark is an exciting prospect that includes business opportunities and health initiatives, on a larger scale.
In order to get the RecoveryPark project off the ground, a set of partners (many financial) needed to step up (see here). At the same time, the food programs needed “buy in” from the community (schools, restaurants and markets for example). Eventually the program will (if all goes according to plan) become self sustaining.
“More than 25 varieties of produce were grown this past season, serving more than a dozen of the area’s top chefs and restaurants. We’re optimistic about our potential for 2015, verified by the premium prices we enjoy for our products, as well as the number of other restaurants on our waiting list.” – RecoveryPark
At this point, Buffalo is making similar waves, but on a smaller, spread out, scale. There are a number of groups that are working their way toward achieving self-sustaining goals. Hopefully we can learn from RecoveryPark,as it goes through its growth stages. Whether it’s teaching people to grow their own food, providing jobs to those who are willing to grow it for others, experimenting with modern growing technologies (such as vertical farming), or developing sound business opportunities in a collective environment, we have the ability to reëxamine our food sourcing landscape right now.
Presently there are urban gardens on the roof of the Broadway Market, aquaponics on the West Side and community gardens and farms in various pockets of the city. A number of progressive restaurants are sourcing goods locally whenever they can. There are growth opportunities in this market that are just waiting for the right people, the right partners, the right communal effort, similar to what we are seeing with RecoveryPark. Whether it’s urban farm to table initiatives, or simply recovering vacant land and putting it to productive use for refugees, we’re not talking about insurmountable spending measures. The funds that are invested in these types of self-sustaining projects benefit Buffalo as a whole, providing people with jobs, healthy foods and even environmental success stories.